Friday, May 23, 2008

O Canada

As I have mentioned before, I will be setting off on the journey of a lifetime tomorrow. I will be riding the rails clear across Canada, from Atlantic to Pacific.

If all goes according to plan, in two-and-one-half weeks, Canada will be the first nation in which I have ridden every rail-transit system.

Soon, I will be traveling through some of the most rugged territory on the continent on one of the continent's last vestiges of golden-age rail travel.

I'll be sure to write updates to the blog, and I'll include as many pictures as I can. However, I'm not sure if I'll have a chance to update Track Twenty-Nine until I get back to Washington in mid-June.

So, to keep you occupied during my absence, I am remembering some of my fonder posts:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My, My Maryland

Today marked graduation ceremonies at the University of Maryland, College Park, where I am a graduate student. Since the final finals were yesterday, campus was dead quiet this afternoon when I went in to pack up my office.

The eerie lack of students reminded me of my post-Tech experience. Campus is just not the same without the life it usually sees. While I love it here in Washington, and am confident in my decision to attend Maryland, I still miss Ma Tech.

It has been just over nine months since I moved to the DC Area and I am still learning the ins and outs of this city. In time, I am sure I will know it as well as a non-native can know it; but now I find that I still have a long way to go. These months have not yet turned into a year, but I have made many fond memories already.

This post, according to Blogger, is my 100th. Since August 2007, I have covered many issues, and I hope to cover many more. I think this post should mark an appropriate reflection of my intentions and my vision for Track Twenty-Nine.

When I started this blog, I had little idea of where it would go. My original intentions were mainly to keep my friends back home up to date and to organize my own thoughts. I doubted that I would write about major policy issues any time soon. At the time, I felt like I was too new to the area and too out-of-the-loop to be taken seriously. Yet over the past eight months, I have written about policy, I have written about transportation, and I have written about many other things. And I have met with your approval. People have commented; they have contributed to a discussion of which I am only a small part, and that is more validation than ever I could have hoped to receive. And I have many visitors each day. They come from all around and they come for many different reasons.

And that brings me to why I blog. I blog because I hope that I can help make a difference. Our region and our country face many difficult policy decisions and I hope that, in the least, I can make my fellow citizens better informed. That is really the vision I see for this site. I haven't the time or knowledge of the inner-workings of DC-Area politics to write any substantive commentary. Instead, I feel I can make a better use of my time (and yours) by introducing topics and providing links to places where more information can be obtained.

But, as I'm sure you've noticed, some of my objectives have already fallen by the wayside. This blog is now linked to from many sites, and I owe my success to these other blogs. But these sites link to me because I provide a discussion of issues related to planning, policy, and the DC region--not to hear my life's story. I have therefore refrained often from writing posts on my own happenings. Recently, I toyed with the idea of creating a separate blog in which to house my personal thoughts and reflections, keeping Track Twenty-Nine purely issue-focused. I haven't decided yet and I'd love to hear your input.

And to you, dear readers, where do you think I should go with this blog? Are you satisfied with the content? The discussion? The issues I cover? What would you like to see more of? Less of?

I welcome your comments. Thank you for reading and thank you for your input!


I especially want to thank a few blogs who have linked or referred readers to Track Twenty-Nine. Thanks for helping me get a good start. Without your help, I might not have made it to the 100-post milestone, at least not so soon. (Sorry for any I leave out. I watch for referring URLs, these are the most common or are people who have personally encouraged me.)

Greater Greater Washington
City Transit Aggregator
The Overhead Wire
Goodspeed Update
District Dirt
Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

Thanks again!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Let's Defuel America

Streetsblog is reporting on Chrysler's plan to defuel America. If you plan on driving a lot, you should just go ahead and sign up for a brand new Aspen and get their Pricelock program. By locking the price at $2.99/gallon for 3 years, Chrysler will encourage its owners to drive more, thereby making fuel more expensive for everyone else.

It will also deplete America's energy resources at a faster rate than it would if Chrysler owners just let the market decide. I wrote at length about the supply and demand issues involved last month just after Senator Clinton urged a suspension of the gas tax.

One of the phrases which I did not use was moral imperative. Throughout that post, I talked about the value of each gallon of gasoline. Since oil is a finite resource, we will run out of the recoverable bits of it one day (although it will stop being cheap long before then). Therefore, I think it is appropriate to say that we have a moral imperative to use alternatives every chance we get.

As I have pointed out many times on this blog, everyone in America benefits when transit wins a new convert. Senator Coburn, one of Oklahoma's Republican Senators, is blocking a bill that will fund the Metro, even though the local jurisdictions have proposed a match of funding. According to Mr. Coburn, funding the Metro is the same as "stealing from our children."

On the contrary Mr. Coburn, transit funding is not stealing from our children, it is crazy gimmicks like Chrysler's and the proposed suspension of the federal gas tax that really steal from our children. Every time someone here in Washington choses the Metro over their car, they leave several gallons of gasoline for the rest of America to use, and that includes Oklahoma's children. They have a particularly raw deal--after all, Oklahoma doesn't have any rail transit alternatives, so they have to drive all the more.

And the good news is that we've finally managed to get people to ride transit. Seats are filling up and oil consumption is going down. Remember America, every time you choose an alternative mode of transportation over your car, you extend the deadline before which we must either come up with alternative fuels and/or redesign our society.

You also reduce the price of oil. I'm sure you've all seen the chain email that goes around encouraging Americans not to buy gas on a certain day in order to drive down oil prices. It doesn't work. At least it doesn't work if you still buy the same amount of oil. It does, however, work if you choose not to drive on a given day. So America, do you really want to stick it to the oil companies? Do you really want to hurt the terrorists? Do you really want to drive down oil prices?

Then take the train or bus.

Do your part to help ensure America's energy future. I know that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have assured you that there is no need to sacrifice, but the truth is Americans are already sacrificing. They are cutting back on charity, they are cutting back on driving, and they are cutting back on spending. Go on, help out your fellow Americans--it's easy. I'm not asking you to give up your car, just give it a try and take the subway to work one day.

And Chrysler, if you really want to refuel America, you'll hand out transit passes with your new SUVs.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Making Your Mind Up

Despite what Bucks Fizz had to say on the matter, I don't have to "be sure that it's something everybody's going to talk about before [I] decide the time's arrived for making [my] mind up." Still it would be nice to stop revising these rail plans. Of course in the real world (as opposed to the academic exercise shown below), plans are almost always fluid.

I have responded to your comments on my transit plan for Washington, originally posted here with a revised proposal.

The main changes I made were the extension of the Southeast Light Rail (now called the Eastside Light Rail), the line colored lime on the map, from Minnesota Avenue up to Columbia. I also separated the Silver Line from the Orange and Blue Lines based on WMATA's recent release of the Station Access and Capacity Study. I've routed the Blue Line along M Street, while taking the Silver Line through the heart of downtown, under H Street. I also instituted "Airporter" service which would operate on the Silver Line from Union Station to Dulles, operating express from East Falls Church to the Airport, with an intermediate stop at Whiele Avenue (more on that later).

The Eastside Light Rail
This newly-dubbed light rail transitway will extend from National Harbor to Minnesota Avenue Metro over the alignment described in my earlier post. North of Minnesota Avenue, the Eastside will parallel the Orange Line to Deanwood, then follow the Alexandria Branch of the B&O (now CSX) to Bladensburg and Hyattsville. Trains then parallel the Camden Line through Riverdale to College Park Metro, where an interchange can be made to the Green and Purple Lines. The line then joins the Purple Line briefly along Paint Branch Parkway, splitting to follow the ex-Rhode Island Avenue Trolley right-of-way toward Beltsville.

Outside of the Beltway, the line turns to follow on the east side of Route 1 to Powder Mill Road, where it will run adjacent to the CSX Capital Subdivision once again. At Muirkirk, passengers can change to the Camden Line. The line then turns to run along the Intercounty Connector to Interstate 95, where the line turns north in the median. At Maryland Route 32, the line turns west toward Columbia. The Columbia stops are accessed while the line runs at grade alongside Broken Land Parkway to Columbia Mall.

East-West Subway Service Downtown
According to WMATA's recent Station Access and Capacity Study, the Orange Line will be overburdened by 2025 even if 100% 8-car trains are operated. These figures assume that the Silver Line will be constructed and that the Blue Line will run some trains to Greenbelt as proposed earlier this year. Personally, I like Greater Greater Washington's proposal to brand it as a Yellow Line shift.

Based on this report and reader comments, I have decided to rethink the idea of east-west Metro access through downtown. The only way to add capacity in an east-west direction is to build a new subway. Under WMATA's proposal, trains will already be operating at their maximum length and headway. The report did resurrect the idea of an M Street Subway, which I proposed in the first iteration of my rail plan as Silver, but I'm not sure the plan goes far enough.

One of the criticisms of WMATA is that no express service is provided. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to retrofit the existing stations due to their monolithic nature to handle additional tracks or platforms. However, a parallel subway would take demand off of the overcrowded conditions on the existing Blue and Orange Lines, especially if its stops were more limited.

Limited Stops in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor
My proposal for the Silver Line calls for a new tunnel to be constructed from I-66 to Rosslyn, parallel to the Orange Line between Rosslyn and Ballston. In this section, a stop would be included at Glebe Road (at Wilson) to serve the jobs in the area, but would not include an interchange to the Orange Line at Ballston. Silver trains would then (in the new subway) proceed directly to Rosslyn with no intermediate stops.

The new subway could be constructed under (from west to east) Fairfax Drive, Glebe Road, Wilson Boulevard, 10th Street N, Arlington Boulevard, and Fort Meyer Drive.

On the western end of the corridor, Silver Line trains would operate in the median of I-66 on the outside two tracks of a new four-track line. East Falls Church Station would be redesigned with two island platforms and four tracks. Silver trains would then shift to the Dulles Toll Road without sharing tracks with the Orange Line.

Rosslyn Redesign
The Rosslyn Station would consist of 3 island platforms and 6 tracks. The existing station, under North Lynn Street would continue to operate in its current form, but only serving Blue Line trains. On the Blue Line, Rosslyn would be between Arlington Cemetery and Georgetown. The Blue Line would use the new M Street subway I proposed before as Silver to access downtown.

A new part of the station would be constructed just west of the present station, under Fort Meyer Drive. This station would have two levels of trains, with westbound trains on the two upper level tracks and eastbound trains on the lower level. At Rosslyn the Silver and Orange Lines would have their own tracks and would not be mixed. The Orange Line would continue east over its current alignment to Foggy Bottom while the Silver Line would operate in a new H Street Subway.

H Street Subway
From Rosslyn, the Silver Line would cross under the Potomac in a new tunnel, continuing under H Street NW. The line could be bored deep under the Watergate, or it could cross the Potomac next to the present Metro tunnel and jog south to H under Virginia Avenue. Continuing east under H, the line would not stop in Foggy Bottom. It would jog north to follow H under the triangle parks at Pennsylvania Avenue. A Farragut Square station would be constructed at 17th Street, with pedestrian connection (fare paid) under 17th to connect to the existing Farragut West (Orange) Station under I Street, the existing Farragut North (Red) Station under Connecticut Avenue, the proposed Blue Line/Regional Rail Tunnel Station under K Street, and the proposed Westside (Baby Blue) Light Rail Station cutting diagonally under Farragut Square itself.

Continuing under H Street, the line would add platforms at the north end of Metro Center (H/12th) and at the north end of Gallery Place (H/7th) for easy transfer to the Red/Orange and Green/Yellow Lines. Just after jogging north to continue under H Street at Massachusetts Avenue, the line would include a Blue Line interchange at the New Jersey Avenue station. The final stop on the western H Street segment would be Union Station/NoMa. This station would be located under H Street and could connect to a new commuter rail concourse for MARC trains. A walkway could also be constructed (fare paid) to connect with the northern mezzanine at the existing Red Line Union Station platforms.

Old City/Capitol Hill
Transit service in this part of Washington would be greatly improved in my plan. Because both the Blue and Silver Lines need to continue toward the suburbs, it seems to make sense to build both subways. Additionally, building the M Street (Blue) Subway under Massachusetts Avenue allows for a more direct connection to the Red Line at Union Station. Meanwhile, the H Street Subway (Silver) would continue under H Street NE to Benning Road and D&G Junction.

From the New Jersey Avenue station, Blue Line trains turn southeast under Massachusetts Avenue, making stops at Union Station, Capitol Hill (Stanton Park), and Lincoln Park. East of Lincoln Park, the subway would turn under North Carolina Avenue then C Street NE. Near RFK Stadium, trains would emerge from subway to join the Orange Line viaduct (on their own tracks). A new 4-track station would be constructed at Oklahoma Avenue (existing Metro viaduct, just south of Benning Road). This station would keep the Blue and Orange Lines separate all the way to D&G Junction to eliminate interlining. A fare paid connection would exist to a Silver subway station under Benning Road (also called Oklahoma Avenue).

Continuing under H Street and the Union Station platforms, the line would include a station at H and 6th NE (H Street/Old City) and Atlas District (H and 14 NE). Finally, the line would turn under Benning Road and include a station at Oklahoma Avenue. Some trains would terminate there, and two layup tracks would exist east of the station. However, rail connections will be constructed to allow revenue Silver trains to continue east to serve New Carrollton and Largo.
A new concept in my plan would provide a faster trip from Dulles to downtown. From Union Station to East Falls Church 'Airporter' trains would share tracks with the Silver Line. Once in the median of the Dulles Toll Road, however, these trains would get their own set of tracks which would bypass the four Tysons Corner stations by staying in the median. A 4-track Whiele Avenue Station would allow passengers to transfer to "local" Silver trains. After While Avenue, Airporters would be express to Dulles Airport, where trains could turn back on a center track at the platform (like National Airport) or proceed through and use a turnback loop west of the station (like Brooklyn Bridge on the #6).

These trains would allow passengers coming from Ryan Road to change for a faster trip to downtown in addition to allowing flyers a shorter time on the Metro. From Dulles to Farragut Square on an Airporter is only 6 stops. On a Silver train there are 12, and that number is 16 under Metro's current proposal, running Silver trains along the existing Orange Line.

While sharing tracks from Union Station to East Falls Church would degrade express service, I don't think it's feasible to construct 2 more tracks through downtown. Besides, if we assume that trains can operate every 135 seconds (current design capacity at Rosslyn), in a 10 minute period, 4.4 trains can pass a given point. Since Metro says higher frequencies can be produced without switch realignment (like at Rosslyn) we can assume that more trains can fit through, perhaps up to 5 in a 10 minute period.

If that is the case, 1 out of every 5 Silver trains could be an Airporter, giving a 10 miunte headway, while service on the Silver Line west of EFC is 2.5 minutes apart on average and 2 minutes apart downtown. Of course, WMATA could adjust service necessarily, but I don't think a lack of separate Airporter tracks downtown will make the service infeasible.

Anyway, that's my revised proposal. I'd love to hear what you think about it. Thanks for the comments last time. And sorry if I've made the map even busier. I don't have a graphic design background, so I just muddle along.

*Since so many of you have asked, I use Inkscape for my graphics. It is a freeware product similar to Adobe Illustrator. I have only scratched the surface of its potential.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

'They looked in the future and what did they see?'

On May 24, 1830, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad became the first passenger railroad in the United States, operating regularly scheduled trains from Baltimore to Ellicott City, a distance of only 13 miles. Yet this achievement changed the course of America's history. Ironically, it was Charles Carroll, last living signer of the Declaration of Independence who broke the ground for the B&O.

"There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run
when the wild, majestic mountains stood alone against the sun
long before the white man and long before the wheel
when the green, dark forest was too silent to be real"
It would be almost 39 years before trains could travel from one coast to the another in the United States, but on one fateful day in May of 1869, Leland Stanford, President of the Central Pacific, drove the final spike into the line that would become America's steel wedding band--marrying East and West less than a decade after the Civil War had threatened to tear the country asunder.

Written on one side of the Golden Spike was the phrase:
"May God continue the unity of our Country, as this Railroad unites the two great oceans of the world"

At that moment, travel across the country became much easier. An eight day trip by train replaced a month long journey by covered wagon. The railroad opened up the fertile farmlands of the western United States and set America's course irrevocably toward Manifest Destiny..

"For they looked in the future and what did they see?
They saw and iron road running from the sea to the sea"

Today, Amtrak celebrated the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad with the first annual National Train Day. At major train stations around the country, Amtrak opened its doors to (if Washington was any indication) teeming throngs of railfans.

At Union Station, here in DC, there were model train layouts, a concert, and a tour of railcars of the modern and historic varieties. I'm not sure whether the highlight for me was the Acela walkthrough or the New York Central lookout lounge, "Hickory Creek"

"Look away, said they, across this mighty land
from the eastern shore to the western strand
bring in the workers and bring up the rails
we gotta lay down tracks and tear up the trails
open her heart, let the life-blood flow
gotta get on our way, 'cause we're movin' too slow"

Part of the celebration, I think, was rejoicing on the resurgence of rail travel. Amtrak's numbers have been up lately, and more and more Americans are taking to the rails to travel. With gas prices going up and the disappearance of the 'friendly' skies, travelers are rediscovering the romance (and just plain practicality) of going by train.

On my way to the festivities this afternoon, I overheard two gentlemen talking (loudly) on the Metro about politics. They were clearly McCain supporters, but as we pulled into New York Avenue they saw an Amtrak Regional consist being pushed toward Union Station. One commented to the other that trains were the way to travel, and that Amtrak was a nice setup in that regard.

I chose not to point out to them that Mr. McCain is not known for his support for the ailing national passenger railroad system.

Of course the other part of the celebration was an acknowledgement of the importance of the small ceremony that took place in the dusty hills of Utah 139 years ago today. For it was that ribbon of steel that build America's foundation for the 20th Century.

"For the song of the future has been sung
all the battles have been won
on the mountiantops we stand
all the world at our command
we have opened up the soil
with our teardrops and our toil
for there was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run..."

America is far from alone, however, in its journey through time. Our northern neighbor, Canada, completed their transcontinental line in 1885. The words interspersed through this post are lyrics to a song by Gordon Lightfoot. The song, the Canadian Railroad Trilogy, was written for the CBC in 1967 and has always struck a chord with me. Even though the song is about the building of Canada's line, the words seem appropriate for a reflection on our own Railroad.

And soon, I too will share in the romanticism of Lightfoot's song--first hand. In a little less than a month, I will be setting off to cross Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This trip will be the trip of a lifetime for me. It's strange, I've always wanted to cross Canada by train, but I don't have the same inclination for America.

I suppose that part of my desire is to experience the romanticism of a foreign land, a land with two languages and one of the harshest landscapes in the world. It's also probably a desire to step back in time. The flagship train of Via Rail Canada is The Canadian which I will be riding from Toronto to Edmonton. The train's consist is made of 1955-built stainless steel Budd cars.

While Amtrak standardized their equipment (you gotta love Amcans) over the years, Via's fleet is a diverse mixture of new and old. After all, rolling stock on The Canadian, like the old cars on Twentieth Century Limited and The City of New Orleans, was built as the last hurrah--no, I'll call it the most recent hurrah because I'm not convinced that it is the final hurrah--of passenger railroading in North America. These trains were the epitome of luxury--and Via kept them.

The Amfleet has all the grace of a slow 747 with legroom and a cafe. Of course, I don't mean to come down hard on rail travel. Even on Amtrak, the experience is top notch. I have yet to find a better way to travel and I've ridden Amtrak in 22 states. But it would be nice to see the older equipment now and then. Give the fallen flags a couple of more flaps in the breeze, eh?

I am hopeful that our next president will recognize the ability of rail to build more sustainable America. While National Train Day (and this post) screamed 'nostalgia,' rail has a future here. The Acela is the first step in achieving a modern, first-world rail system (again) in the United States. It must not be the last step. We are decades behind Europe and Japan when it comes to an efficient transportation network. We need to step up to the plate if we are going to continue to be competitive in a world facing energy supply and demand issues.

So, in short, National Train Day is, for me at least, about remembering a time "when the railroad did not run" and also remembering a time when "all the battles [had] been won." At the same time, it is an admonition to look in the future.

And since I'm feeling nostalgic, I'll close with my favorite poem:

"The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn't a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.

"All night there isn't a train goes by,
Thought the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
and hear its engine steaming.

"My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I'll not be knowing;
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,
No matter where it's going."
--Edna St. Vincent Millay, Travel

Thursday, May 8, 2008

How Appropriate

Only watch this if you're from Atnalta. (Otherwise, you'll miss all the jokes).

The View from the Top

Sorry for the lag in blogging lately. I was away from my computer for several days while visiting my old hometown, Atlanta.

I was there to celebrate the joyous union of two of my best friends; and while I'm now tackling final papers and job interviews, they are honeymooning in New Zealand.

I also took the opportunity of this trip to introduce my boyfriend to my parents, a first-time experience for all four of us. I think that the meeting went well and I hope it will foster greater understanding between my parents and myself. While I came out during my undergraduate years, they are still coming to terms with the idea of a gay son.

At any rate, I also used this too-brief respite from my studies to do a few things I'd never done as an Atlanta resident. One of those things was to ascend to the 72nd floor of the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel to view the Atlanta-scape during the daytime. I had been up at night (it's free after 11), but never during the bright hours. The view is spectacular, even though many of the buildings still show damage from the Tornado which struck the city in March.

The Westin from Centennial Park

The Equitable Building was hard-hit
by the Tornado, Downtown is in
the background--looking South

I also visited the world's largest aquarium, located just north of Centennial Park. The 8 million gallon facility houses much marine life and was impressive. My favorite exhibit involved going through a 'tunnel' directly under the waters of the largest tank.

Fish swim overhead at
the Georgia Aquarium

My wanderings through showed me how quickly the urban environment is changing. Already, several new condo towers are climbing into the skies above Midtown. Soon, I don't think I'll recognize the skyline. Underground is still declining. Even though I was there on a weekend, I've never seen the place so empty. And traffic is worse than ever. Part of the problem is the removal of the 14th Street Bridge (for replacement) and the ongoing repaving project on the Downtown Connector.

1010 Peachtree rises
from the Midtown Mile

I did have the pleasure of visiting one of my favorite Atlanta restaurants for a Raspberry Turkey Wrap. Front Page News is as good as I remember, and I only wish I'd had a chance to sample their marvelous Bloody Mary on this trip.

I rounded out my visit to the gleaming heart of the Southland with a visit to one of my favorite urban spaces, Piedmont Park. The park was surprisingly full for a Sunday afternoon, and the people watching was excellent. I think this Olmstead park is one of the greatest emeralds in America.

The high-rises of Midtown are reflected
in the ripples of Lake Clara Meer

Thursday, May 1, 2008

My Senator Takes the Morning Train

Ok, so I don't know if my Senator takes the morning train, but you can say that if you're from Delaware. In a speech earlier this week, Senator Thomas Carper (D, Delaware), the junior senator from Delaware told his colleagues that he takes the train home, almost every night.

And why shouldn't he? The end of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor is only 2500 feet from the Senate Chamber. The Senator needs to walk less than a half mile up (ironically) Delaware Avenue to Burnham's masterpiece, Union Station.

So yesterday, while we bloggers were lamenting the lack of leadership on this issue, Mr. Carper was on the floor of the Senate saying this (excerpt):

I ride the train back and forth most days. I live in Delaware, and I go back and forth. As my colleague, the Presiding Officer, knows, I go back and forth almost every night to Delaware. A strange thing is going on with respect to passenger rail ridership in this country.

I used to serve on the Amtrak board when I was Governor of Delaware, and every year we would see ridership go up by a couple of percentage points. We would struggle, try to raise money out of the fare box to pay for the system and the expansion of the system. Well, the first quarter of this fiscal year, ridership at Amtrak is up 15 percent. Revenues are up by 15 percent. People are starting to realize that maybe it makes sense to get out of our cars, trucks, and vans and take the train or take transit. Transit ridership is up again this fiscal year more dramatically than it has been in some time.

Americans are beginning to literally buy homes in places that are closer to opportunities for transit--for rail, for bus, for subways, for the metro systems. As we have seen the drop in home prices across the country--in some cases, very dramatic--among the surprises, at least for me, is to see housing prices stable and in some cases actually going up in places where people can buy a home and live and get to work or wherever they need to go to shop without driving to get there.

I don't know how gullible we think the American voters are to suggest to them that we are going to have this holiday on gas taxes, Federal gas taxes, for 3 months or for 6 months, maybe to get us through the next election, and then when the elections are over we will go ahead and reinstate the gasoline tax to what it has been even though in doing that we might be depleting further the money available for transportation improvements. I don't know how foolish we think the American voters are. They are a lot smarter than that. They are a lot smarter, maybe, than we give them credit for being.

I think in this country people are crying out for leadership. They are calling out for Presidential leadership, whether it is from our side of the aisle or the Republican side. People want leaders who are willing to stay out of step when everybody else is marching to the wrong tune, and I would suggest that the wrong tune is to suspend the Federal gasoline tax and at the same time not replace the dollars that would otherwise go into the transportation trust fund to fix our dilapidated, our decaying transportation system. Voters in this country deserve better leadership from us. I am determined, I am committed to making sure we provide and pay for that.

Before I close, there are a lot of good ideas for things we ought to do. I mentioned, tongue in cheek, that we ought to provide more R&D investment for a new generation of lithium batteries for plug-in hybrid vehicles. I say, tongue in cheek, we ought to use the Government purchasing power to commercialize advanced technology vehicles. We are doing that. I said with tongue in cheek we ought to provide tax credits to encourage people to buy highly efficient hybrid vehicles and very low diesel-powered vehicles that are efficient. We are doing that.

There other things we need to do too. We need to invest in rail service. We can send from Washington, DC, to Boston, MA, a ton of freight by rail on 1 gallon of diesel fuel. I will say that again. We could send from Washington, DC, to Boston, MA, a ton of freight by rail on 1 gallon of diesel fuel. But we as a government choose not to invest in freight rail and, frankly, to invest very modestly in passenger rail. It is a highly energy-efficient way to move people and goods.

(Emphasis mine)

And just to prove that politicians can do more than pander on energy policy, he closed by saying:

I will have a chance to come back later in the week and talk about this some more. Sometimes we underestimate the wisdom of the voters. I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said: If you tell the American people the truth, they won't make a mistake. I will do my dead level best to make sure, during the course of the debate on this notion of waiving the gasoline tax or having a holiday on the gasoline tax until after the election, I am going to make sure, I hope with a number of my colleagues, the American people understand the truth and the full picture and that they will make the right decision. Hopefully, we will too.

(Emphasis mine)

This is the kind of leadership we should get from our elected officials. I wish I could call Mr. Carper my Senator.

Thanks to JW for the heads up on this speech.